At last week’s UFC press conference, it was announced that former UFC Featherweight and Lightweight champion, “Notorious” Conor McGregor will be making his return to the octagon at UFC 229. He’ll face the undefeated, undisputed UFC Lightweight champion, Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov. It is a fight that ESPN’s Ariel Helwani has already named the biggest fight in MMA history. More importantly, it is a fight that the UFC needs now more than ever.
UFC Pay-Per-View Numbers Down
It is no secret that the UFC’s pay-per-view buyrates have been low as of late. With Jon Jones suspended, Ronda Rousey gone to the WWE, and, until now, McGregor on an almost two-year hiatus, there just weren’t any megastars to bring in enough casual viewers to sell more pay-per-views.
Just last month, UFC 226 featured “The Superfight”, pitting Light Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier against then Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. Years ago, it was hard to predict how many pay-per-views a card with that main event would have sold. But the consensus seems to be that it would have sold more than the 400,000 that Cormier-Miocic actually did.
As much as the UFC might not need Conor McGregor to put on great fights, it is apparent that they need him for business reasons. This claim is clearly supported by the fact that of the five pay-per-views in UFC history to do more than 1.2 million buys, four of them featured McGregor, and the numbers never lie.
Crazy Backstory to a Crazier Fight
The seed for the colossal matchup between the proud Irishman McGregor and Nurmagomedov, representing Dagestan, was planted back at UFC 223. McGregor’s teammate, Artem Lobov, was scheduled to fight on that card, as was Nurmagomedov. In the week leading up to the event, there was some sort of confrontation between The Eagle and Lobov.
McGregor, who is big on loyalty, decided he would fly to New York and attack Nurmagomedov after the weigh-ins. This plan resulted in McGregor throwing a dolly through a bus window, resulting in two fighters sustaining injuries from the broken glass, and three fights being removed from the card. Needless to say, Dana White and the UFC were not happy with McGregor’s actions. It seemed like he would be in very serious legal trouble.
At the end of the day, though, this is a business. Money talks. McGregor avoided any felony charges or jail time, and simply has to do community service and take anger management courses. This rivalry is about much more than just fighting for a gold belt.
A True Superfight at UFC 229
After McGregor’s punishment was determined, Dana White and the UFC were left with an obvious fight to make. Clearly, there was bad blood and interest to fight each other between The Notorious One and The Eagle. And, despite the UFC’s displeasure with the dolly incident, it could be used to sell massive amounts of pay-per-views.
There are just so many storylines and talking points with this matchup. There’s the bus attack, the fact that McGregor is making his long-awaited return, and that he will be challenging for the title he previously held. And this fight can be sold on the fight itself; a war between a dominant striker and a vicious, mauling grappler. A battle between Ireland and Russia. This will be an historic fight, and it comes at a trying time when the UFC needs such a spectacle.
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